Like Sherlock Holmes before him, Poirot is willing to act as judge and jury, and allow the guilty to escape punishment, as in Murder on the Orient Express (1934) when he allows the murderers of a truly evil man to go free. Although Poirot declares, ‘“I have always disapproved of murder,”’ (Cards on the Table, 1936) this position is not unimpeachable, and he commits murder in his last adventure, Curtain, (published in 1975), when he knows that he is too old and frail to stop a very dangerous man from destroying his best friend.
girlfriend, Verity. Michael was convicted of the crime but was not executed and has been in prison for ten years. In this novel, Christie raises the question of the effect on a person who is imprisoned, possibly for life. The same question is asked in Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver novel, The Case is Closed (1937), where Geoffrey Grey has been imprisoned for the murder of his uncle. This book also explores the effect of such a conviction upon the accused person’s family. His wife, Marion, lost the baby she was expecting and has had to return to her modelling career to survive, but she is forced to use another name in her professional life so that the shame does not tarnish her employer. Here Marion is speaking of a visit to Geoffrey in prison, ‘“... we’re not together. I can’t get near him – I can’t touch him – they won’t let me touch him, they won’t let me kiss him. If I could put my arms round him I could call him back. He’s going away from me all the time – dying away from me – and I can’t do anything about it... Think of him coming out after twenty years, quite dead.”’
killer takes their own way out. It is even worse when the next generation suffers, as in Five Little Pigs (1942) and Poirot's other purely retrospective investigation, Elephants Can Remember (1972.)
intolerable amount of saccharine’ but added that the occasion of Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane’s union must be the excuse. Wimsey has travelled a long way in personal development and in reclaiming a life damaged by the Great War, but ironically his story turns full-circle when the case ends in an execution and again his nerves give way under the strain. This time, however, he has Harriet to help him recover his equilibrium.
A little remembered author who took the attitudes that Berkeley gave Roger Sheringham to even greater extremes was J.C. Lenehan, who not only allows murderers to escape but often has the detectives in charge of the investigation allow them to do so. In The Tunnel Mystery (1929), the victim is a respectable businessman, murdered for profit, and yet Detective Inspector Kilby, the detective in charge of the investigation, admires the murderer, whom he seems to regard as a Robin Hood figure. Kilby is described as a man so honourable that he would not deceive a suspect and yet, at the end of The Silecroft Case (1931), which concludes the story started in The Tunnel Mystery, Kilby and his constable conspire to pervert the course of justice and allow the murderers to go free, without even the fear that their crimes will catch up with them. Lenehan wrote many books, with numerous detective characters, and always shows more empathy for the murderer than for the victim. Indeed, it sometimes seems that his detectives are not seeking out the murderer to send him to the gallows but to congratulate and reward him.
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher. She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames. Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.